One of the first official steps your campaign should make is asking your friends and family for a donation. Although in-person and over the phone requests are the most effective, there are many valid reasons why this won’t work for everyone (for tips on these in-person interactions, click here).
But friends and family require a personal touch to be effective, so we want to expand on the template in order to get you into the habit of creating well-crafted donation letters. Let’s talk about what makes an effective fundraising letter.
Though you will be contacting friends and family, it is still very important to establish a personal contact with whomever you are reaching out to - and, no, this doesn’t mean you would write “as you know, you are my sister...”
The personal connection is designed to add weight to the ask. You can use phrases such as “I have always appreciated our friendship” or “I have always loved and appreciated the support you have given me over the years” to remind the person receiving the letter of your bond.
Consider multiple types of opening paragraphs that allow you to personalize as necessary - your grandma probably shouldn’t receive the same letter as your friend from college.
Why You Are running
You won’t see much success if you send a letter saying “You know and love me, so give me some money for this thing I am doing,” no, you need to explain why you are running and why the person on the receiving end should donate.
Explain why you decided to run. Are you upset about something? Would you like to see a change to a portion of the government? Do you just have civic pride? All of these and many more are valid reasons to run and allow you to show to whoever you happen to be talking to that you are serious about your run and that you deserve their support.
Now is not the time to be sending boilerplate letters to people asking them for a donation. Your personal relationship with your friends and family are your biggest asset, and you are only hurting yourself by not adding a personal touch.
Now, we are not telling you to bring up in a letter how your cousin gave you swirlies when you were both kids (as funny as that may have been for them) - no, we are saying that you can add a lot of personal touches that show that you really did take the time to think about them when you decided to reach out.
Bring up your personal relationship, hand sign the letter, and handwrite addresses; heck, you may even want to put a special stamp on the letter too.
These little things can make a big difference in the eyes of the people you are reaching out to.
Include Commitment and a Hard Ask
Now, as nice as it is to catch up with people, you are writing these individuals for a reason. You need to make sure to include a paragraph or two about how you are specifically asking for a donation and that you would like them to donate a specific amount to your campaign, whatever that amount may be.
This step may seem crass - but as we have said before, most people are not going to be upset by your ask. Always ask yourself “would I be offended if they asked me for a donation?” The answer will most likely be no and, if it is, you probably shouldn’t be asking them for a donation in the first place.
One of the most important things you can do when fundraising is following up with those that didn’t donate - however this is particularly important with your friends and family. Why? Because you have the most direct access to these individuals and it is much easier to get a commitment out of them if you show that you really would appreciate the support.
In general, you should try to follow up within two to three weeks, and you should do it through a method other than in the form of your original ask. Because we are talking about letters in this post, you may want to consider making a phone call or actually meeting the person face-to-face.
A little time following up can go a long way towards bringing more funds in your campaign, especially early on in the race when you need all the money you can to get off and running.
A few more tips
Take a look again at the template fundraising letter (provided by FundHero below) and notice a few key things that can help you write an effective friends and family letter:
- Brevity - your letter should be short, no more than a full page.
- Bolding - point your reader to particularly important points like the fact that you are running and that you are looking for a specific donation from them.
- Personality - This is hard to do in a template, but do try to write the letter in a way that allows you to be you. Speak the same way in the letter as you would in person.
- Ease in Donating - make it easy for the person to donate by providing a donation website (like the ones that FundHero offer), or by including your address or a smaller envelope that the person can mail back to you with a check.
- Urgency - You don’t want to sound desperate, but you do want to press upon the person that the donation needs to happen now in order to get your campaign started right.
This all may seem daunting, but the hardest part really is staring. Once you get your initial letter out, you will become a stronger fundraiser and you will have officially gotten your campaign off to a solid start.